Gee, what were the New England Patriots doing signing Cam Newton? There are actually people who were asking that question before betting on NFL Futures.
What were they going to do with their quarterback situation? I don’t see coach Bill Belichick as the “rebuilding” type, and while we don’t necessarily have to use that term here, there was going to be quite a transition if they wanted to go with young, inexperienced Jarrett Stidham behind center.
And while Newton brings something of a different skill set to the table than his predecessor, he’s not a player who has to learn how to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League.
So we are here to discuss what the signing of Newton and the change at quarterback does to the Pats’ chances of winning the AFC’s East division. And here are the odds to win, according to our friends at CentSports. As you’ll notice, with Newton’s signing, the Pats are slightly favored:
New England Patriots +130
Buffalo Bills +135
New York Jets +825
Miami Dolphins +900
And by the way, in case you are interested, New England is +725 to win the AFC title and +1700 to win the Super Bowl.
No one is expecting the Pats to operate with the same kind of efficiency on offense as they did with Tom Brady calling the signals. The truth is, no one should expect them to operate the same way at all.
One of the things New England should have in its favor going forward is that there is a certain amount of flexibility in its approach. Bill Belichick isn’t someone who is married to a specific offensive “system” that is rigid. We presume that coordinator Josh McDaniels is one of the more proficient at his craft, although it is hard to tell who deserves what in terms of credit on the Patriots’ staff through the years.
We can probably operate under the assumption that adjustments will be made if Newton is the starting QB. But obviously they were thinking in that direction anyway, after Brady set sail for Tampa Bay. Maybe this is good news and maybe it isn’t, but Newton played in, for all intents and purposes, the same system as Jarrett Stidham in college – that which is employed by Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. And Stidham, who was a rookie last year, is someone they were going to give a chance to win the starting job. He still is. So there will be some “commonality” between what both of them are expected to do.
For the moment, Newton should be the presumptive starter. After all, we know how much ability he has, as he has traveled a rather successful path in the NFL since his Heisman Trophy win. We know that he was the MVP of the league in 2015. And while he came under fire after the Super Bowl, he DID get his team to the Super Bowl, didn’t he?
The price for Newton was right; he signed a one-year deal for $1.05 million with a lot of incentives built in that could elevate it to $7.5 million if all goes well. When i t came down to it, the whole thing was more or less a no-brainer. We don’t know if he was a guy the Patriots’ brass was “hot” on, but he was the most accomplished veteran quarterback on the market, and, well, practically the only one left.
A lot of compliments have come Newton’s way, relative to his competitive fire.
During the winter, as former Carolina coach Ron Rivera had been hired by the Washington Redskins, and Newton has out there on the market, he was heard to say, “I just know a healthy Cam, I would never bet against him.”
Ah yes, a healthy Cam. It would appear that the biggest potential problem with Newton involves injuries. Although the contention is that he is healed from the foot and shoulder ailments that sidetracked him in 2019 and sent the Carolina Panthers into a tailspin, one may have to see it to believe it.
He hadn’t been throwing well at all last season, and that was holding the team back because he simply couldn’t get it down the field with any degree of accuracy. And his days as a quarterback who is dangerous on designed runs may be over.
Undoubtedly his presence, with a strong arm at the very least, will be a key factor in the Patriots reaching double digits in wins once again. At CentSports, they are priced at +117 to go over 9.5 victories (-137 is the price back the other way).
We’re not sure what it means to be “100 percent,” but Newton would have to approach that to really make himself effective in whatever offense they are going to put him in. There is the issue of him developing a rapport with his receivers, especially a guy like Julian Edelman, who, like the other smurf-type pass-catchers with the Pats, had a special rhythm going with Brady.
Mohamed Sanu, who never really got himself rolling with the Pats after being acquired from Atlanta, seems to be ecstatic about Newton’s arrival.
“He can help the team in so many ways,” he told ESPN. “He’s a big powerful leader. All he has to do is go be Cam. He’s an MVP.”
And Newton himself has been bold recently. He says he’s tired of being “humble.” Okay, well there’s a way for him to channel that kind of swagger into something positive. Or, it could go in the other direction.
Whatever the case, a banged-up Newton increases the risk of the Patriots being a lot closer to ordinary. Of course, we have to consider that there are still some elements in place for this team that had its three-season run of Super Bowl appearances interrupted just last season. Their defense might still be outstanding, but they have lost some people, namely linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, as well as nose tackle Danny Shelton.
And if you’ve noticed, they have no problem placing a lot of emphasis on the ground game. That should still be a solid element.
But they were decidedly non-explosive with Brady last year; he did not have a healthy or generally effective set of receivers, and Rob Gronkowski was not a part of the group. Sanu averaged only 8.8 yards per catch. Maybe they’re improved this year, but how much?
Training camp and pre-season games might be limited at best. So what will the factor of chemistry, or the lack of same, be?
So yeah, there are some questions that have to be answered, but maybe the Pats are justifiably the favorites in the AFC East, if only based on the fact that this staff knows how to win.
The Buffalo Bills are the only team that can do it if the Patriots don’t. And if you are going to place an NFL futures bet on Sean McDermott’s team, you are casting a vote as to whether Josh Allen has truly arrived as an NFL quarterback, since we know that they have the defense and running game to win the division.
The New York Jets aren’t going to be ready to make the big leap, unless Sam Darnold becomes a star and Le’Veon Bell becomes Le’Veon Bell once again. The Miami Dolphins may not be all that bad this year; they just won’t be good enough to top Buffalo and New England.